Detroit Tigers crush Jack Leiter's fastball but missed tag leads to 9-7 loss to Rangers

The Detroit Tigers produced five extra-base hits against the fastball of Texas Rangers right-hander Jack Leiter.

The Tigers spoiled Leiter's MLB debut with seven runs as part of two comebacks in the early innings, but the Tigers still lost to the Rangers, 9-7, in Thursday's finale of a four-game series at Comerica Park.

The reigning World Series champions grabbed the lead for the third and final time in the eighth inning, as a result of the Tigers' third and final error on a missed tag by third baseman Gio Urshela during a key rundown.

The Tigers (10-9) dropped three of four games in the series.

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Kenta Maeda of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Texas Rangers during the second inning at Comerica Park on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Detroit.
Kenta Maeda of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Texas Rangers during the second inning at Comerica Park on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Detroit.

Right-hander Kenta Maeda, who owns a 7.64 ERA through three starts, put the Tigers in a hole by surrendering six runs (five earned runs) on seven hits and two walks with two strikeouts across 2⅔ innings, throwing 63 pitches. He gave up three home runs to the Rangers (11-9), including a leadoff homer to Marcus Semien with an 89.4 mph fastball in the first inning.

Maeda failed to command his fastball.

But the Tigers had the game tied into the later innings with seven runs against Leiter, making his MLB debut. He gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 3⅔ innings, throwing 85 pitches. A bevy of batters — including Javier Báez and Spencer Torkelson — slugged Leiter's elite fastball, which generated just five whiffs on 24 swings.

The Tigers had a 99.2 mph average exit velocity on 11 balls in play against fastballs.

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In the eighth inning, Urshela failed to tag Leody Taveras during a crucial rundown.

Semien hit the ball to Báez, who flipped the ball to second baseman Colt Keith, who ran toward Taveras before dumping the ball to Urshela, who was tripped as Taveras ducked underneath the tag. After that, the Rangers had runners on the corners with one out.

Taveras scored easily from third base for an 8-7 lead on right-handed reliever Shelby Miller's next pitch, resulting in a fielder's choice.

On that play, Torkelson fielded the ball with a diving stop to his right of first base, but instead of making a risky throw home to catcher Carson Kelly, he tried to get the runner advancing to second base.

To keep the game close, the Tigers needed a boost from right-handed reliever Alex Lange to keep the game tied at seven runs. Lange, who has walked too many batters over the past year, inherited the bases loaded with one out in the seventh inning after replacing replaced left-handed reliever Tyler Holton.

Lange struck out back-to-back batters.

Both Wyatt Langford and Jonah Heim whiffed at curveballs below the strike zone.

The Rangers took a 9-7 lead with Taveras' RBI single off left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin in the ninth inning.

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Kenta Maeda struggles again

The third pitch of the game foreshadowed Maeda's third start.

Semien hit a fastball for a solo home run to left-center field in the first inning, and in the second inning, Langford hit a first-pitch slider for an RBI double and Heim hit a third-pitch splitter for a two-run home run. The Rangers had a 4-0 lead before making their fourth out of the game.

In the third inning, the Rangers chased Maeda from his start by continuing to pile on the hard hits. Adolis García launched a solo home run off Maeda's splitter for a 5-4 lead.

Maeda nearly escaped the third inning, but the Rangers challenged an inning-ending groundout. The challenge reversed the call on the field to making it 6-4 and keep the inning alive.

That's when the Tigers pulled Maeda from the game.

Right-handed reliever Alex Faedo finished the third inning and completed 2⅓ innings, allowing an unearned run. The unearned run — a byproduct of Matt Vierling's fielding error in center field — scored in the fourth inning to put the Rangers ahead, 7-4.

Maeda threw 23 splitters, 18 fastballs, 16 sliders and six sweepers. He generated five whiffs (on 24 swings) with two splitters, two sliders and one sweeper. His fastball averaged 89 mph.

Jack Leiter's first day

The Tigers bailed out Maeda with seven runs off Leiter.

Beating up on the rookie began in the second inning, when Báez — who hasn't been on time for fastballs in two years — drilled a down-and-in 96.4 mph fastball to the left-field corner for an RBI double. He hit the heater with a 108.8 mph exit velocity.

A mound visit didn't do anything to help Leiter.

Riley Greene copied Báez by hammering a down-and-in 95.9 mph fastball to right-center field for an RBI triple. He hit the fastball with a 104.2 mph exit velocity. Canha tied the game, 4-4, with an RBI single off Leiter's slider to complete the four-run second inning.

In the fourth inning, Taveras — the Rangers' center fielder — misplayed a 404-foot fly ball from Kerry Carpenter with two outs. He should've made the catch, but the ball bounced at the warning track. Carpenter pulled into third base with a two-run triple, cutting the deficit to 7-6.

Torkelson tied the game, 7-7, by punishing Leiter's middle-middle 97 mph fastball for an RBI double to left-center field.

Báez turned on another fastball — a 95.4 mph sinker from right-handed reliever Jose Ureña — for another double to the left-field corner in the fifth inning, but the Tigers stranded him. He hit that one off Ureña with a 109.1 mph exit velocity, similar to his hard-hit double off Leiter.

He has one strikeout in his past 22 plate appearances.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers betrayed by missed tag in loss to Texas Rangers